Liad Shoham’s latest book, Asylum City, has a riveting plot that involves a mystery based around social issues. This is not a typical thriller since the reader is engrossed not only in the crime plot but also the current issue facing Israelis, seeing the predicament through the eyes of the characters.
The story begins with the murder of activist Michal Poleg in her Tel Aviv apartment. The policewoman assigned to the case, Anat Nachmias, wonders which of the possible suspects could be the perpetrator. Was her killer a disgruntled African immigrant? Or the lawyer she filed a complaint against for causing so many migrants to be deported, or “The Banker” extorting the migrants, as he lends money to them illegally at exorbitant interest rates? The book allows the reader to be a part of the investigation, as Anat must decide if an “asylum seeker” actually committed the crime after his confession.
Anat Nachmias is smart, motivated, more of a listener, and armed with a law school degree. An attractive woman who relies on her intelligence and training to succeed, and knows it is not easy being a woman in the men’s club. She is a strong female character who handles herself well in a male dominated profession on a crime that her supervisors would like resolved regardless of the evidence. Besides Anat there are other well-developed characters although the overabundance of characters and the similarity of names are at times a bit confusing.
Since the author is a practicing attorney, the descriptions are realistic and accurate. He uses his job experiences to write a gripping novel that is in many ways similar to the US immigration problem: should border security be implanted before solving the immigration problem, what to do with those illegally in the country, and is there a humanity issue. The problem in Israel has arisen from the Eritrea Africans who are trying to escape persecution by migrating to Israel through the Sinai Peninsula.
He told blackfive.net, “It does not matter the color of their skin, which is irrelevant. Israel has accepted Jews from all over the world: Ethiopian, Chinese, Hispanic, Eastern European, and Western European, but the underlying thread is they are all Jews. The government does not exploit them, but also do not grant them any opportunities. The problem is those who try to exploit them, that is exemplified by the quote in my book, ‘I’ll never get how people who grew up in this country can exploit other refugees. The Bedouins that are hired to move them across the desert have kidnapped them for sex trafficking, held them hostage for ransoms, tortured the men, and raped 90% of the women. Israel is unable to control the crimes, because they take place outside our border. Within Israel there are those who have set up businesses surrounding the asylum seekers needs. For example, just as in the book, since they are not allowed to open bank accounts, Mafia bosses have become their bankers that transfer money to the asylum seeker’s family.”
Asylum City is a fast-paced and riveting novel that is more than just a crime story. It is a gripping thriller with engaging characters and an informative storyline.